Self Advocates of Semiahmoo’s Alexander Magnussen, Danielle Burns, Asma Patel with Semiahmoo House Society executive director Doug Tennant and involvement co-ordinator Charmly Smith at the Disability Pride Parade, held June 15 in Richmond. (Contributed photo)

‘We have reasons to be proud of ourselves’

South Surrey self-advocates participate in march, conference to promote inclusion

B.C.’s first-ever Disability Pride Celebration and March was an important opportunity “to be out there and be loud and proud.”

Alexander Magnussen, chair of the Self-Advocates of Semiahmoo – a group formed by Semiahmoo House Society members to advocate, raise awareness of and support their peers with diverse abilities – was among many from the Semiahmoo Peninsula to participate in the event, which was held this month in Richmond as part of the 2017: Inspired by Love conference.

Touted by Inclusion BC officials as a celebration of “the pride we have for Canadian citizens of all abilities,” Magnussen said it was all that, and more.

“I think the march is important to have because we need to show that people with disabilities have reasons to be proud of themselves,” Magnussen, 28, said in a summary of his thoughts on the march and conference sent to Peace Arch News last week.

“We are still quite a minority group and we need to be more visible. This march is one way we can be more visible and proud.”

Magnussen and SAS advisor Jill Glennie said participants were pleasantly surprised by the reaction of motorists who honked and waved support during the June 15 public display.

“Everybody was sticking their hands out (to wave),” Glennie told PAN.

Magnussen was on the steering committee for the march, and said it was kept “short and sweet” to accommodate participants who had mobility issues.

The conference, held over four days at the Sheraton Vancouver Airport Hotel, was about advancing “real inclusion.” It included a pre-conference day of “presentations, conversations and social events” aimed at inspiring new ideas and action, as well as workshops and speakers.

Magnussen, who has autism, was one of two keynote speakers to address attendees on June 16. The seasoned presenter said he spoke about “positive relationships and why it is important to have relationships with people.”

Artwork by Magnussen was also featured “everywhere” at the conference. The colourful prints remain available for purchase at SHS, 15306 24 Ave. For details, call 604-536-1242.